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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Eagle •


FOOD: Bank workers traveled to Plantersville Continued from A1 Some families lost everything in the fire while others only lost the food in their refrigerators due to power failure or smoke damage. Even though families are only required to fill out a form to receive assistance, many choose to share their stories with food bank employees. “People want to talk about what happened,” said Theresa Mangapora, executive director of the food bank. “It wasn’t a lot, but what we did was very meaningful to them.” Food bank employees traveled to Loukanis Reception Hall in Plantersville so families wouldn’t have to go far to receive food, Mangapora said. Going to the disaster area also allowed employees to talk to victims and make more of an impact on an individual basis, she said. “These are under-served areas,” said Mangapora of the affected rural parts of Grimes County. “[Driving] is just another obstacle to their recovery and getting their life back on track.” Miosha Sanders, social service outreach coordinator for the food bank, said she could still smell ash in the air Monday when she made her way to the reception hall to help distribute food. “It was kind of sad going out there, but they’re holding on,” she said. “Considering what they went through, their spirits are really high.” Sanders noticed an outpouring of community assistance while in Plantersville, something she said helps maintain

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“It was kind of sad going out there, but they’re holding on. Considering what they went through, their spirits are really high.” Miosha Sanders Social service outreach coordinator for the Brazos Valley Food Bank a positive atmosphere. Despite the amount of devastation caused by the fire, she said, people were thankful for their loved ones and pets. The 17,500-square-foot Brazos Valley Food Bank is one of 19 similar operations in the state. It acts as a network hub to at least 23 food pantries in the Brazos Valley. Last year, the food bank provided 4 million pounds of food to Brazos Valley residents in need. Thirty-five percent of the donated food comes through the federal government and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, with another 30 percent coming from individual and commercial donations, both physical and monetary. The Brazos Valley Food Bank accepts donations in person and is at 1514 Shiloh Ave. in Bryan. Food donation sites are available in most grocery stores in the BryanCollege Station area, and residents can also visit to contribute money.

BANS: Index shows Brazos County was drier in ’09 Continued from A1 20 through Jan. 1 — but Williams said she’s usually able to make enough money during that time to cover rent and electricity bills for the year. With disaster declarations preventing the use or sale of fireworks in Brazos, Burleson, Grimes, Madison and Washington counties, this year is different. “To make up for it, I’m looking for another job,” she said. “I already sold a car and my travel trailer, too. It’s pretty extreme.” Across Texas, according to the governor’s office, 164 countywide bans have been approved. And the number grows daily as requests continue to pour in. Fireworks bans are pending for Leon, Milam and Robertson counties. Burn bans are in place for 235 of the state’s 254 counties. On Friday, Leon County Judge Byron Ryder announced he wouldn’t be following in the footsteps of the other Brazos Valley elected officials seeking the bans on fireworks, citing too much government regulation in day-to-day life already, among other reasons. By Tuesday, though, he had submitted a request for a disaster declaration to the governor’s office, making Leon the last Brazos Valley county to apply for the distinction. “[Tuesday] morning, I reevaluated the situation after learning that Hilltop [Lakes] decided not to do their fireworks show,” he said. “If they aren’t doing their commercial show, then people don’t need to be firing them off on their own.”

“I feel bad about it for lots of reasons, but first and foremost is my concern for the welfare of the people of Leon County.” Byron Ryder Leon County Judge Ryder said he was hesitant to make the call so late in the month because it wouldn’t provide enough notice to the vendors. “I feel bad about it for lots of reasons, but first and foremost is my concern for the welfare of the people of Leon County,” he said. “So, we’re trying our best not to create any fires.” Stephanie Schmidt, the band director for Madisonville High School, said she planned to operate a fireworks stand to help raise money for the group’s scholarship fund. The group had expected to raise between $3,000 and $4,000, but now is looking for an alternative way to raise the funds, like a citywide dance that might be planned for August. “I can understand both sides of the issue,” she said. “We were really excited about the opportunity, but if something was to go wrong, I wouldn’t want to be blamed, I wouldn’t want to find out we were the cause.” She said some of the members of the band evacuated their homes during the recent wildfires in Walker County. “So, we’re close to this. I really wasn’t surprised. I was disappointed, but not sur-

prised,” she said. Chester Davis, president of the Texas Pyrotechnic Association, said he understands the elevated fire concerns brought on by the drought, but he believes fear rather than fact may be causing so many county officials to apply for a ban on fireworks. “A lot of this is based on speculation. We’ve been drier than this and been allowed to sell before,” he said. “It’s going

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to hurt many student groups and many families that make a living selling fireworks.” According to the KeetchByrum Drought Index, which is monitored by the Texas Forest Service and “relates the effects of drought with potential fire activities,” Brazos County was drier in 2009. The KBDI average for Brazos County on June 28 was 538; in 2009, that number was 627; and in 2010, it was 424.


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